Engage and listen: Lessons from Grand Union

At our Grand Union development in Alperton, North West London, we shaped the masterplan in partnership with local people. Our proposals closely reflect the community's aspirations for their neighbourhood and residents are actively supporting the regeneration of the former Northfields Industrial Estate.

But at the start, engagement was a real challenge. Canals and roads separate the site from its surroundings and local people felt little connection with the space. There were relatively few civic groups and organisations to work with, and high numbers of non-English speakers. It was clear we had to take the conversation to them.

Alperton Festival | Berkeley GroupHundreds of locals turn out for the annual Alperton Festival

So to get things started we asked local community leaders to walk the streets and point out the things they value and the things they want to change. We held pop-up street interviews around the town centre and visited more than 20 local events. Gradually, we met more people and we began to understand what makes Alperton tick.

This taught us two key things were missing from the area; good quality community spaces and a strong local identity. So we built the Community Information Centre, which doubles as a free community meeting place. We also held the first two Alperton Festivals, organised with the community, which brought hundreds of local people together for the first time and raised money for local charities.

Community Information Centre | Berkeley GroupCommunity workshops were used to develop the Grand Union masterplan

As our local network grew, we set up a Community Liaison Group, held collaborative design workshops and exhibitions, engaged with local schools, ran a photography competition and held 20 drop-in sessions.

This all helped us to shape our masterplan around the things local people really care about. As a result, there will be a 5,000 square foot Community Centre with kitchens, vegetable gardens and flexible event spaces.

Half of the site will be public open space, including a riverside meadow, children's play space and a beautiful open landscape, which will finally make the canal-side somewhere people want to be. And we will invest in the wider town centre, including an unloved route between Grand Union and Stonebridge Station, which will become an inviting link that draws people through.

There is still a long way to go, but through engaging and listening, we are on course to create a welcoming community and a stronger local identity for the whole of Alperton.

Riverside Meadow | Berkeley GroupComputer Generated Image of the new canalside

Community feedback

"This could transform the whole area and make it a really thriving community..."
Martine Miel, local resident.

"We couldn't have asked for a better consultation, from the workshops through to summer festival in the park"
Donna Forde, local resident.

"It's a great scheme and carries the support of local residents, business and politicians."
Shama Tatler, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Brent Council.

Grand Union Waterside | Berkeley GroupComputer Generated Image of the new homes